According to the Washington Post, police officers in Ferguson, MO. will be trained to use a device created by Alternative Ballistics to incapacitate individuals through blunt force rather than lethal force. The device known as “the Alternative,” is an orange colored mechanism that is placed on the barrel of an ordinary handgun. Once a bullet is fired, it melds with an attached projectile roughly the size of a ping-pong ball and flies with enough force to knock someone down, but not kill them.
The discovery of this alternative to lethal force was discovered by Ferguson assistant police chief Al Eickhoff about after the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. The 36 year veteran of Missouri police work said he was looking for something that could have prevented the deadly encounter between Brown and Wilson.
The Alternative has attracted both fans that praise the invention and critics who denounce it.
“It gives another option,” Eickhoff said of the device, which he later tested for himself. “I really liked it. .?.?. You are always looking to save a life, not take a life.” Another member of law enforcement, former Springfield, MO. police major and training expert Steve Ijames, says it “exposes police officers to greater risk.”
“I am all about less lethal,” he said. “What bothers me is we will allow an officer to face immediate deadly jeopardy with a less-lethal round. Deadly force is the most likely thing to repel deadly force.”
The chief executive of Alternative Ballistics, Christian Ellis, said he started the company near San Diego to perfect a device to stop needless citizen deaths such as the case with Brown and Wilson. Ellis likes to think of it as “an air bag for a bullet.”
However, the device only captures the first bullet, meaning that the next round chambered is a regular bullet. If the Alternative fails to stop its target, the next shot could be lethal.
The Alternative works by firing a bulbous metal alloy bullet-capture device that travels up to 250 feet per second and sends a “shock wave of pain through the suspect” once contact is made. As of now, the Ferguson police department is the only domestic police agency that is training with the Alternative. The units are $45 each. So far, the device has only been tested at gun ranges and no human being has been shot with it.
“Hopefully we can get it on the streets soon,” Eickhoff said. “Is it going to work every time? Probably not .?.?. it’s not a catch-all. Every situation is different. But it gives an officer, if time allows — and that’s important, if time allows — a chance to save a life instead of taking a life.”